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Favoring Partnerships Over Power

“Social innovation usually does not result from simply coming up with new ideas but from forming new relationships, connections, and alliances that enable new or old ideas to be implemented.” 

Facilitating Breakthrough, Adam Kahane 

Philanthropy plays an integral role in the progressive movement

As strategists and evaluators supporting philanthropy, we see our role serving as a nexus between philanthropy and the field. Knowledgeable about philanthropy and about what it takes to make change, we serve as expeditors of data and insights. We understand the lay of the land and center the work being done at the individual, organizational, and community levels and bring perspective to the progressive movement’s gaps, overlaps, and common needs.

Three threads run through this work.

Partnership not power. We believe mutual respect and shared goals are the stuff of sturdy, productive relationships, and that each party—philanthropist and grassroots organization—benefits the other. Grassroots organizations know how real issues affect real people and how to rally communities to action. Philanthropies bring resources, not just financial but also connections, and a place at the big table. Together, they are a powerful pairing.

Honesty, transparency, and trust. In contrast with the historic funder–recipient power imbalance, we believe the movement is served by building trust and fostering honest communication. Meaningful, innovative work happens when philanthropies build trust with their grantees, reward innovation and honesty, and make a genuine effort to understand landscapes as they really are. For their part, organizations must be forthright in their asks and feedback and transparent about their successes and challenges. We’ve found our position as a third party especially helpful in creating the space necessary for trusting relationships and candor.

The voice of the impacted communities. In each project, we work to identify the right leaders to engage throughout the process. This, to ensure the product of our partnership has a strong race and gender equity component and uplifts historically disenfranchised and oppressed communities.

From all of this, the benefit that unfolds is a simple yet profound math: philanthropies become smarter, more efficient and effective at what they do, so recipient organizations can be better at what they do. Together, their impact is incisive, positive and magnified.

Grassroots Solutions is proud to have worked with dozens of philanthropic clients over the years including Energy Foundation, Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, McKnight Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and many others. With our clients, we develop resources directly within the communities that philanthropic organizations are looking to serve, while ensuring that the relationship is equal and one does not hold power over the other.

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